Jasper Alliance Church forgives, moves on from suspected arson

Oliver Schlaegel is a man of many numbers.

He's 80-years-old.

"I'm going to be 81 next week," he said.

And for more than 50 years he's been a preacher. The past 20 years have been at Jasper Alliance Church. It's a small congregation with two families and eight members.

The now gone.

"There isn't much we could do," he said. "It happened."

Tuesday morning, the building caught fire.

Intentionally set, according to the Walker County Sheriff's Department by 18-year-old Michael Ray Wilson and 21-year-old Matthew Dalton Elliott.

Officers say the two robbed and set Schlaegel's church on fire. The two are also charged in the burglary of another church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. Thursday, Sgt. Tim Thomas says the two men are also going to be charged with burglarizing a home in the area.

"The Lord knows all about it," Schlaegel said. "And He orchestrated them getting caught."

Inside the Jasper Alliance's a mess. Fans are drying everything off from the fire hoses. Pews, the piano, decorations and hymnal books are ruined. Schlaegel's Holy Bible sits on his preacher's podium...warped.

"All we can our sign says...pray for them," he said. "[And hope] that they'll get right with God."

Another number: Lamentations 3:32, which says "Though he brings grief, he will show compassion" is something Schlaegel is already seeing.

"Somebody drove by and he said the Lord told him to come in and give [my wife] some money for the church," Schlaegel said. "And he didn't have much in his wallet, but he gave her all he had."

Schlaegel says insurance should cover the cost of the building, as long as the congregation pays the $1,000 deductible.

If you would like to help, you can send donations to:

Oliver Schlaegel2005 Gamble AvenueJasper, Al. 35501